A Hold in the Countdown

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September 1, 2016

Dodge City, Kansas

I was sidetracked in the last post, but you did not miss much.  The trip to Denver had only a windshield wiper failure to mention.  The blade went cock-eyed on the arm in the middle of a downpour and I shut them off and went for the nearest exit off the interstate.  By blind luck, there was a truck stop right there. By my luck, they did not have the replacement part.  I managed to re-attach the old blade and it works, but it makes an ominous tapping sound with each wipe. I could use new wiper blades and I thought I had a pair in the cargo compartment.  Turns out, those blades are 2 inches shorter and not for this truck at all.  The blade part number I need is 19-220 and I have searched for those in vain on four truck stop shelves in Colorado and Kansas.

My next assignment begins in Dodge City Kansas where I will take some frozen beef and transport it to Omnivores in Massachusetts.  A goodly distance of 1793 miles plus a “deadhead” of 359 more will make this a reasonably good paycheck.  Nothing to stand up and scream about, you understand, but better than most five day periods.  When waiting for “protein” loads, the procedure is to drop the empty I bring and then wait while another trailer is loaded and set out for me to “hook” and take away.  Yesterday, I accomplished the deadhead and dropped the empty.

I try to get a photo for each post.  In the picture below, you see that my truck stop neighbor is a livestock carrier, commonly and derogatorily known as a “slaughter buggy”.  This one had just been washed.  But even so, you don’t want to imagine the olfactory environment around it.

He brings them in, alive.  I take them out, in pieces and frozen.  That may disturb some of the more sensitive readers.  But, remember that it is all a part of the “Great Circle of Life”  That Muffasa explained to little Simba.

slaughterbuggyneighbor

Above:  Before and After.  Right: How the cows get to the beef plant.  Left: How they leave same.

When you enter a yard, they have you slide the trailer axles to the rear for easier maneuvering by the Yard Tractor.  As I mentioned, it works better for me backing into doors, as well.  However, it is not a good idea to run the roads that way.  Besides the fact that your load will be unbalanced very heavily – and possibly illegally – toward the front, the long wheel base also makes for very difficult turns.  If corner signs and fire hydrants could talk they would agree that sliding the axles forward for road trips is a good idea.

So, I am waiting for my beef load.  They told me with great confidence that it would be ready by 4:00 AM.  I went to bed early and managed to sleep, mostly. It is now 5:42 and they have promised to call by 6:00.  The deadline is listed as 8:00 and I would bet a few bucks that they won’t make that either.  I had made my trip plan with 9:00 as a departure and had been only too happy if I could make an earlier start.  As I have mentioned before, parking fills up quickly in the evenings, especially in the Northeast.  My schedule from 9 AM will have me looking for a spot at 6 to 8 PM for the entire trip.

Now it is 6:06 and no call yet.  I did just get a satellite telegram asking why I haven’t arrived yet.  I was supposed to send that message yesterday at a quarter to four PM.  I have sent it now, with an apology.  There is an online site to check the load status and it still says “NOT READY” (upper case theirs).  I have been waiting now for over fifteen (15) hours.

So, we have a Hold in the Countdown.  That’s the way to think about it.  If you are a Cretaceous Dinosaur like me, you remember that early space missions would be put on hold for hours or “scrubbed” for the day, over and over again.  I can’t even complain that Astronauts were better paid then, since most of them were Military and even Officer’s pay was not what you could call lucrative, back then.

At 6:54, a call from the plant tells me that 8:00 Am is the new estimate for liftoff.  That would be my original “DLD” when they are expected to have the stuff ready.  Even then, they will be still generating the paperwork as I hook up the trailer and slide the axles.  My start time of 9 AM will be not far wrong.

Actual start time turns put to be 10:44.  They let me in to find the trailer early and I wandered around seven rows of full trailers finding about 15 with my company’s logo but with the wrong number.  Finally I find it on the last row available.  It is parked so close to the next trailer that I cannot even squeeze my body into the cavity, leave alone crank up the landing gear.  Landing gear is those legs that hold up the front of the trailer when the tractor is not attached..

Now I go and find a   Yard Tractor and ask the driver to pull it out, so I can couple with it and drag it over the yard’s scale.  You may remember that I need three numbers.  The front, steering axle weight, the weight of the tandem duals on the rear of the tractor and the trailer tandem weight.  The yard scale shows these one at a time as you drive over and place the three, each in its turn, on the single scale.  I slid the trailer axles forward to put more weight on the back, as the three numbers indicated.  This entails walking back to the axles and releasing the “pins” that hold the axles in place, then using the tractor to push the trailer body backward.  The “steps” in the adjustment are about 8 inches apart. It is almost certain I will overshoot and get it wrong at least twice…and I did.

 

But, that got me out of the yard and to the truck stop where I am obligated to weigh the truck on a certified scale.  It turns out the yard scale results were worthless and I had to try another three times to get the axle weights right.  Lesson learned:  go over the yard scale, if they insist. Write down the numbers and then go directly to the truck stop and use a certified scale.  Use the Yard numbers to amuse yourself with how wrong they were.

Then I notice the paperwork indicates that part of the cargo should be at +26° and part at -10° .  Can’t happen.  I can pick only one (1) temperature.  Someone at the office had to okay  a single temp.  I got it in writing – actually a satellite email.  It may sound paranoid, but if this -10° beef is ruined by the wrong temperature, I will pay for it.  I am carrying over eight tons of the stuff.  

With that sorted out I can begin to drive to Massachusetts,  It will take three days of over 10 hours of driving. Starting this late will make the parking situation a nightmare when I arrive at my first rest/fuel stop after 10 PM, count on it.

On the road, I passed a “Scenic Turn-out” on a rise above the local region.  I can see that the turn-out overlooks a cattle feedlot.  I can only imagine that the sign came before the feed lot.  I’ll try to get a picture of a feedlot so the reader (you know who you are) can appreciate the intense unscenicness of such a place.  Mere photos will, of course, fail to convey the odiferous environment surrounding same.

Then, a  convoy of windmill parts passes me on the two lane undivided highway.  Three blades at over 100 feet long and wide enough that I shift over to the “rumble strip” on the shoulder. It is not long before I pass the staging area for the wind-power boondoggle in Kansas.  A huge landscape that contains enough blades and tower sections to make a hundred or more of those costly mistakes.  Not far from there, I cross another thirty or forty completed but unmoving windmills on my right, while another collection of same on the left side of the highway are actively producing intermittent, unreliable and expensive electricity.  I keep coming back to this subject because the whole of the American Great Plains seem to be infested with these and I see them constantly in those regions. I will give the subject a rest after this.

I have arrived at my planned stop in Illinois just across the Mississippi from St. Louis.  Parking was indeed, a nightmare. I didn’t fuel the truck last night for fear of losing the last space in the gigantic lot. I won’t go into details.

The temperature was about 60°F this morning.  Summer is probably over, at least locally. This truck stop also does not offer the wiper blades I need.  I only have a light jacket, so I hope to get by home for winter clothes before long.

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